Canopic Stopper of King Tut

It is very useful for those, who study history, archeology or other related subject, to support their knowledge and understanding with some visual materials. In such cases, visiting some geographical territories of historical events, or archeological museum, or an exhibition of antique arts would be perfect help for better picturing of realistic details and environment of ancient times.

The exhibition of the treasures of Egyptian King Tut, which were revealed during the discovery of his Tomb in the beginning of XX century, is a perfect example of visual support for those, who are interested in history and culture of Ancient Egypt. A lot of different statuettes, busts, vases, elements of decorations, etc. from those times were presented at the exhibition in Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. But I was especially fascinated with a little bust from the canopic chest of King Tut, made of delicately patterned transparent calcite.

This elegant bust reproduces King Tut himself wearing the nemes head-dress. The creators of it used subtle black and red paints to underline facial details of good-looking Egyptian king: his big eyes, eyebrows and lips, demonstrating feminized nature of this person. Traditionally, the face of King Tut is presented with decorations of protective cobra and vulture, appearing from his head-dress. This small statuette is typical exemplar of Egyptian ancient art, which is characterized with features of early frontalism: every picture (in painting) or figure (in sculpture) was presented in rigid and formal posture.

This bust was found in a shrine of King Tut, on a magnificent canopic chest made of alabaster and gorgeously decorated with golden staples. There were, actually, four of such busts, which were located in every corner of the chest and served as stoppers. These stoppers were sealing four compartments of the chest, in which four miniature anthropomorphic coffins, containing mummified inner organs of the king, were stored.

King Tut (Tutankhamen) is one of the most known and recognizable pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. He was the Ruler of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egyptian Kings, who started his reign in the age of 9 and died at the age of 19. Certainly, he ruled under supervision and control of his adult advisers: in particular, his vizier and future successor Ay. The main social reconstruction, made by King Tut, is conversion of heretical Atenism, launched by his predecessor King Akhenaton, to previous traditional ancient Egyptian religion. Causes of his death still remain unknown, and there are some suggestions on this issue. Some specialists consider him to be murdered; the others consider his death to be accidental.

After watching this sculpture of young pharaoh for some long period of time, first of all, I started paying more attention on its divine material. This transparent calcite is called Egyptian alabaster, which was, probably, enriched with some phosphoric materials. That is why the bust looks so lucid and shining, as if time did not touch it at all. I noticed that in this magic shining the representation of King Tut looked exceptionally graciously, and he seemed to me to be very calm and friendly as a person.

The more I watched, the more I could realize, how different it is to see figures and statues in real dimensions, not as reproductions in the books. This way so many details, like features of the face, head position, profile line, vivid natural colors, and so on, can be better observed and considered. There is no printed picture, which can properly show the light, color, shape or delicacy of ancient artworks. So, if we want to receive some good idea about such treasures, we have to see them live. That is why such exhibitions are extremely popular and always crowded.

There are many known representations and images of King Tut, which remained from ancient times. Recently the revolutionary event took place, when the team of Egyptian, American and French specialists managed to receive a new facial image of Tutankhamen. It was presented in three-dimensional CT scans of the Pharaoh’s skull, but the only uncertainty was left, which is the tone of King Tut’s skin.

Of course, such researches are priceless. But, to my mind, there is no better imagination of a historical personage, than the one, which can be received from observing original artworks and genuine historical materials. After visiting this exhibition, I have formed my own clear picture of this Egyptian legendary king in my mind, which, I suppose, is not very different from his real appearance and character.


  1. “Canopic Stopper of King Tut.” King Tut. King Tut Exhibition, Los Angeles County Museum of Arts. 8 Nov. 2005;;.
  2. “Tutankhamen.” Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia Online. 6 Nov. 2005. 8 Nov. 2005 ;;.

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